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Crossing the Jordan

Prepare the Way Part III

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14 Nov 2020
Crossing the Jordan
Standing recently at the River Jordan made me think of the great moments that have happened there, especially how Joshua led a whole nation into a new destiny. In fact, the story of Joshua and the Israelites conquering the promised land has occupied my thoughts often over recent years.   
 
After 40 years of wandering the desert, the Israelites finally reached their destination, the land of Canaan. This represented a significant shift on many levels. Israel needed to change their thinking, attitude, and behavior. Once Israel passed over the River Jordan, they needed a new approach. What had worked in the wilderness was no longer good enough in this new territory. It is a lesson for all of us today.
 
Joshua’s ascent to leadership marked a dramatic shift for Israel, a transition from nomadic desert tribes into a victorious nation conquering the land of Canaan. This transition was miraculous and brought upon them by God. The day the people of Israel crossed the Jordan, they celebrated their first Passover (Pesach) in the promised land. While Jericho was not yet captured, they celebrated Pesach with the produce growing in the land of Israel. Suddenly something happened they might not have expected. The blessing of manna, the bread of angels, no longer appeared. 
 
Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year (Joshua 5:12).
 
In many ways, this change was long expected, as their daily diet now became far more diverse. But the big change was that Israel now needed to sow and gather and work the land. Seedtime and harvest now required a new approach of laboring in the fields and orchards to bring in the annual crops. 
 
It also marked a radical change in military strategy. Once a nation that only defended itself against attackers in the wilderness, Israel now needed to go on the offensive and conquer new territory. They would no longer live a nomadic life, following God through a barren wasteland—God now asked them to take fortified cities and settle in their land allotments.
 
That’s why when Joshua led the people of Israel over the Jordan, he required them to keep their eyes on the ark of the covenant and follow its lead—because “the way by which you must go . . . you have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4b). A new way and new experiences were waiting for them. Thus, Israel needed a new mindset of faith and expectation. In some ways, they needed a new theology—they were now in a completely different paradigm of salvation history than their fathers. 
 
During their 40 years in the wilderness, Israel lived on “deferred hope.” Many Christians today live in that same mode of deferred hope. They became content to live in a spiritual desert that was never truly intended for them as sons of God. Israel was indeed destined for a period of desert wandering. Because of their unbelief, God did not allow them to rush right into the promised land but led them by a longer route through the wilderness. This was an important part of their journey. And there are periods when God might lead you and me through desert seasons because these times often impact and change us more than times of blessing and plenty.
 
But it was never God’s purpose for the Israelites to spend their entire lifespan in the desert. It was instead God’s judgment that a whole generation would wander in this place of unfruitfulness for four decades and perish in the wilderness.
 
Yes, it was a time of divine protection, provision, and God’s faithfulness. The Bible says their clothes did not wear out (Deuteronomy 8:4), and there were no feeble or sick among them. God faithfully provided for His people. But the desert was supposed to be only a brief transition period leading them to a greater destiny. Tragically, an entire generation never saw the promised land and missed out on what God had for them. 
 
Today the same is true for many people in the Church. Too often we are all too ready to settle for less than what God has intended for us. But like Joshua, God is calling us to cross the River Jordan into the promises and destiny He intends for the children of God. 
 

There are Four Biblical Principles in the Story of Joshua that I would Like To Highlight: 

1. The Expectation of Something New 

This central quality not only characterized Joshua but also all great men in the Bible—and even in church history. Revivals have come because men looked at the status quo, compared it with the Bible, and realized the people of God were destined for more. That is why Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, and many others anticipated revival and even impacted nations.
 
Joshua dared to step out in faith on the “way you have not gone before.” The prophet Isaiah encourages us to be ready for new things that God wants to do even in our time. “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18–19; see also Isaiah 42:9, 48:6).
 
It means no matter how dry our situation might be, God encourages us to expect the new thing, even “streams in the desert”!

2. Faith and Courage 

When Moses commissioned his successor to take over, he repeatedly told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6–9). Moses understood this was the main quality needed to enter and possess the land. The book of Hebrews affirms that it was an “evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12) that caused them not to enter their rest in the land of promise. God is looking for a people who are not impressed with the giants in the world and the onslaught of evil. Rather, He looks for men and women who know there is nothing impossible with God and understand that if God is with us, none can be against us.

3. A People Hungry and Thirsty for Righteousness 

Another essential quality in Joshua’s life was his total dependence on God’s Word. He did not do things his way but God’s way. Repeatedly, the book of Joshua records that he did all “according to the word that Moses commanded him” (Joshua 4:10; 8:30–31, 35; 10:40, etc.). This was exactly what the Lord instructed him to do from the beginning of Joshua’s calling. “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). The key for Joshua’s success was his obedience to the Word of God—his being careful not to compromise, neither to the left nor the right. Make it your practice to spend time daily in God’s Word. It is a key for your success.

4. Eyes Fixed on the Ark 

Just as Joshua commanded the ancient Israelites to keep their eyes on the ark of the covenant carried on the priests’ shoulders, we also need to be a people who keep our eyes upon Jesus. He is the Great Shepherd we follow as he guides us. Here again, the Word of God is essential. His Word is a lamp unto our feet, and God has promised that His Spirit will lead us. A book that has touched me tremendously is The Practice of the Presence of God by a certain Brother Lawrence. He was a simple monk working in a European monastery kitchen whose advice was sought by leaders of his time because he indeed practiced living in God’s presence. He was a man of prayer. This coronavirus season is one that is forcing us all to walk in ways we have never passed before. We cannot afford to lose sight of Jesus!

5. A People of Battle 

The land of promise was not a paradise on earth but a battlefield that needed to be conquered. It was not child’s play to take possession of the land—God warned Israel several times that after they passed the Jordan, new challenges awaited that outstripped their capabilities. God declared through Moses that upon entering the land they would encounter “seven nations greater and mightier than you” (Deuteronomy 7:1). In Deuteronomy 9, this warning is even more explicit: 
 
Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, “Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?” (Deuteronomy 9:1–2)
 
It was this same seemingly hopeless situation that the generation beforehand had faced and wound up wandering in the desert for 40 years. 
 
Today, God is looking for people like Joshua and for the Calebs and Deborahs who are willing to take the battle to the gates of the enemy and possess what God has promised.

A Season of Opportunity 

Today God is leading His people to the border of the promised land. It is a land that holds tremendous promise for us, yet at the same time, it will take courage and faith to face the giants between us and our destiny. 
 
I truly believe that the current coronavirus crisis is placing many of us on the banks of the River Jordan, and God is inviting us into a new land of promise. He is inviting us to leave the place of mediocre Christianity characterized by weekly visits to church for two hours of upbeat music and motivational speaking that leaves us feeling good but does not help us face our giants. Too often I hear these days: “I hope this coronavirus crisis will be over soon and we can go back to how it was before.” I honestly dare not go back to how it was before. Here at the ICEJ, during the past six months, we have prayed more than ever before. We have seen God answering prayer and healing people from severe diseases. Every month more of our branches are committing to increased prayer for revival in Israel and their nations. They have witnessed a new hunger filling their gatherings for more from God and for revival. 
 
Entering the Promised Land means to develop a new passion and hunger for the promises God gave us in His Word. We need a whole new level of determination to shake off the dust of our religiosity and declare to God, to ourselves, and to the enemy that a new day is dawning, and that we are determined to enter into the promises of God. We need a fresh hunger for the Word of God and for His presence. 
 
So what is the territory the Lord has promised us? What is the destiny we should enter? It might look different for each person, as we all have different callings. But one territory the Bible invites us to conquer is our families. Joshua boldly prophesied over his own family: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). As parents, and particularly as fathers, this should be our battle cry regarding our children and our children’s children. 
 
For others, the battlefield might be demonic bondage and oppression of family members or loved ones. Let us remind ourselves that Jesus did not come to pacify the enemy camp but to destroy the works of the devil. In Mark 16:17 and following, we find a description of the promised land, which should be inherited by all who believe:
 
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17–18)
 
Yet another battlefield is our cities and nations. We are living in times when our nations are in an uproar, not only in the United States but in many countries around the world. It is a battle for the soul of our nations. Countries today are turning away from their godly and Christian heritage and are drifting into a swamp of open immorality and sin. God is looking for a people willing to stand in the gap and ready to take our nations back for him. 
 
One message the restoration of Israel teaches us today is that God is interested in the salvation of individuals and cares for entire nations. “Ask of me,” God says, “and I will give you nations as an inheritance” (Psalm 2:8). In one of our recent Global Prayer Gatherings, Suzette Hattingh said that our fatalistic prophetic expectation of the end times too often leaves us passive and complacent. How true that is! One core character trait the church needs is to be a source of hope. This hope never puts to shame. Let us hope and pray for our nations until Jesus returns. 
 
Today, even as you read this, make a personal commitment to cross into your personal promised land. Ask God to lead you into the new things He has for you and to carry out great exploits, even in this difficult time of coronavirus. Remember that if God is with us, who can be against us?   

— by Dr. Jürgen Bühler, President ICEJ President

 

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